Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Seasons of the Church (part I)

For the past few years, I have had a growing interest in learning more about the liturgical year of the church.  I decided to do some reading on the subject, and will discuss what I am learning on this blog, in the form of a series of posts.  I thought it was an appropriate time to do so, since the beginning of Advent (at the end of this month) marks the beginning of the church calendar.

I am reading The Circle of Seasons by Kimberlee Ireton.  The book is subtitled "Meeting God in the Church Year".  Here are some of the tings she has to say about why we should, as a church and as individuals, learn to celebrate the seasons of the church.

First, it helps us relate and understand all of our time "through the lens of the Christ-story"(12).  She writes
"The church year has seasons of darkness, of light, of sorrow, of rejoicing, of just getting through.  Our lives have such seasons too.  By incorporating these experiences, the church year hallows them, reminding us that all time is sacred because God is present in it." 
 Time is an important part of our lives, and God is present in that, too.  Ireton writes
"The church year is another way God reaches into time to draw us to himself.  In living each year the mystery of our faith - Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again - we open ourselves to receive a deeper understanding of that mystery..."  
There is also in this cyclical nature of the church year the graceful allowance for us to learn more from it each year as we come back again and again to these truths and mysteries.

Ireton also points out that celebration of the church year is "necessarily communal".  This is something that the Church has always been.   Yet what a witness it can be!  As she points out, "In an individualistic culture, this focus on community celebration is a witness to the wholeness that people can have only in living life together." (14).  I have personally experienced the truth of this statement many an Advent and Easter season.

Finally, and perhaps most personally motivating, is the potential for celebration of the church year to help change our perspective God-ward instead of culture-ward.  Ireton writes
Observing the seasons of the church year also helps us embrace the church's telling of time instead of our culture's.  Our culture's calendar is grounded in capitalism, which requires consumption.  Back-to-school sales, day-after-thanksgiving sales, the Christmas shopping season, after-Christmas sales, Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, graduation, Father's Day, the Fourth of July -- there is a sale associated with each and every cultural holiday or occasion to induce us to consume more.  This way of measuring time reduces us to mere consumers, instead of inviting us to be fully human, with all the varied emotions, experiences and roles that entails.
Isn't this so true?  It is so easy to slip into this.  Yet when we consider the rich potential of understanding our lives in the context of the church and God's workings - why would we ever want this consumer version?  The way we measure our time is perhaps more powerful than we always realize.  God knows this.  He works in time, and invites us to join Him.  I hope you are as excited as I am to grow in this area!

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